26 Mar 2012

Felafel Wraps with the lot! - A Family Favourite

This is not so much cooking as gathering really! But it makes an excellent, healthy, fast, nutritious family dinner - perfect for arranging around a busy evening of extra-curricular activities! This week it needs to be gathered and prepped before swim squad and my laps, and eaten immediately when we get home.

We have an excellent Lebanese Bakery near where we live (The Lebanese Loaf) which sells all the necessary bits and pieces. Great Flat Bread still warm, there own shop-made felafels, hommus, baba ghannoush, tabouli, killer garlic dip - fabulous but not for the faint hearted or those with social engagements the next day!

I do make all those things (except the bread) from time to time but on a busy week night, deep into the school term I am happy to buy them.

We add grated carrot, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, sliced cucumber, greek yoghurt, BBQ sauce, sometimes some fried onion and roll our own fat, delicious wraps at the table.

Then we make some more for our own lunch the next day!

Sometimes we follow it with a little of their amazing Baklava. YUM!


21 Mar 2012

Design your own cup cake! - Cooking with Small People! -

The second instalment in my cooking with kids adventure...

My slightly older class (6-7 yr olds) get an hour for their cooking. They also have experience as they spent most of last year cooking very simple things, so I try to make their sessions more challenging.

I have given them a cookbook each which they stick the recipe in, writing any changes they made, and then they photograph their own food to stick in with the recipe. (training for tomorrows food bloggers!)

They made cup cakes this time. 
I made a basic mix with them (based on Nigella Lawson's Fairy Cake recipe in "How to Eat".)

Basic Cup Cake Mix
125g Self Raising Flour
125g unsalted butter (very soft)
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn baking powder
few tablespoons milk

Put all ingredients except milk in food processor and blitz.
Add the milk and continue to process until you have a smooth batter.

Divide into 4 bowls - one for each child.

Then I had a range of things they could choose to add:-
Cocoa powder
Lemon zest and juice
Orange zest and juice
Dessicated coconut
Mashed banana
Grated apple
Food colouring

I asked them to talk to me as they added things so I could help with quantities and whether we needed to tweek the mix a bit e.g. if they added a few liquids I added a little more flour.

The kids then stirred their mixtures and spooned it into 4 patty pans. (I had different coloured patty pan cases so that we could tell who's was who's.)
We then cooked the cakes for about 15 minutes at 200C.

Whilst the cakes cooked (and cooled fast in the freezer) the kids did a bit of the clean-up, wrote their modifications onto their recipes and coloured/flavoured their icing.

The Icing - Butter cream icing

  • 185g butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups icing sugar mixture
  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a bowl until pale. 
  • Gradually add icing sugar mixture and milk, beating constantly until combined.

Kids were offered a drop of colouring, a squeeze of lemon or a little cocoa in their icing and sprinkles, fresh strawberries or glace cherries for the top. 

They then iced and decorated. They chose their favourite of their 4 and took 
a photo of it. Then they scoffed them down or wrapped them to take home or some of each!
One group went with the 'I want everything she has' approach and we ended up with lots of similar cakes with almost everything in them. 
The second group were more restrained. We had plain chocolate, orange and chocolate, lemon and vanilla. 
The third group were more adventurous. One made a lemon and soy sauce cupcake!!!!! One made a fruit salad one with lemon, orange, banana and apple. This group also put colouring in the cake ( the others just put it in the icing)
This activity ran overtime for every group (allow about 1 hr 20 min) but none of them minded, they enjoyed it so much they were happy to stay in and finish, with the lure of 4 mini-cupcakes each at the end.

I have done something along these lines with my family too. With much older kids it is still a fun activity and you end up with more appetising results.


20 Mar 2012

Tuscan Plum Upside Down Cake

We had family for dinner last night. I don't always do dessert - but my father-in-law is a dessert fan so I decided to find a dessert using our plum surplus. With our Italian leaning this week a Tuscan Plum Upside Down Cake seemed to fit the bill. I haven't made an upside cake before!


  • 275 g Sugar
  • 150 ml Water

  • 900 g Plums, Halved and Stoned 

  • 150 g Soft Butter
  • 175 g Sugar
  • 200 g Self Raising Flour
  • 3 Eggs
    Preheat the oven to 170’c.

  • Put the sugar and water into a heavy based pan (that can go into the oven).
  • Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until the sugar caramelises to a golden brown. (I turned it off at a hint of brown as the cast iron pan I used held heat and the caramel continued to darken after I removed it from the stove)

  • Carefully and immediately arrange cut side down in a single layer in the caramel (this will be the top of the cake when it is cooked).

  • Put the butter, sugar and flour into the bowl of an electric food processor, whiz for a couple of seconds, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. ( if you don’t have a food processor, just cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one by one, then mix in the flour).

  • Spread the mixture in an even layer over the plums in the pan.

  • Bake in the preheated oven for about one hour.

  • The centre should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan.

  • Run a knife around the edges to make sure it has not stuck anywhere.
  • Leave it to sit for 3 or 4 minutes before turning out.

  • Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or crème fraiche.
It was delicious, hot at the time and in my lunch box today. I also have a nectarine stack - I could see this becoming a regular dessert!

18 Mar 2012

Mexican Pork Ribs in Orange and Chili Sauce

This is where the "almost" comes into the Blog Title!!

We had a family meal on the weekend with my brother, his wife and my adorable niece (nearly 2) and nephew (nearly 4). They live on a farm and are meat-three-times-a-day eaters so there is a little food culture clash between our families. But we are all passionate foodies and very big users of spices so we fit in with each other and manage to eat well together. 

So we cooked a meat meal! A Rare Event! (It was delicious)
The other culture clash between our families is that they don't fancy the internet and insist no images of them appear on the WWW. Thus my photos are a bit poor as I had to take them quickly and before hitting the table

They came in the late afternoon so we started with some Guacamole, a Chipotle Dip I found on a Costco adventure and some Tortilla Chips.  

Then I made an Orange & Chilli sauce based on one I found online to fit a Mexican Theme. 

Mexican Ribs In Orange & Chili Sauce
(Costillitas en Naranja)

  • 2kg Pork Ribs 
  • 2 Tbspn vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions , sliced
  • 1 can 450g can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 dried Chipotle chili
  • 1/2 small tin of chipotle in adobo sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground clove
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1⁄3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbspn brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest 
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • fresh Coriander (cilantro) (for garnish)

  • Heat oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
  • Add Onions, Saute until soft (approx 5 min)
  • Add garlic, chilies, cinnamon and cloves to the onions cook and stir for a few seconds.
  • Add Tomato , cook for 5 minutes or until bubbling.
  • Add orange juice, wine, orange rind, salt and sugar and cook until bubbling.
  • Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • At this point I put some aside for the vegetarian serve.
  • Then I browned pork ribs over a high heat, spooned the sauce over them, covered the pan and baked it for 1.5 hrs in a moderate oven. 
  • Sneaky (and poor) photo at the table
  • Next Remove ribs to serving platter, keep warm.
  • Skim the sauce and discard the fat.
  • Stir in the vinegar.
  • Spoon Sauce over the ribs.
  • Garnish with coriander

I choose to serve it with mash as we had a potato glut and it worked really well together - I guess I would normally have chosen rice though.
I made a simple corn salsa - corn off the cob, diced fresh tomato, parsley, coriander, lime juice and olive oil. I also cooked a few baby peas. Mia had some leftover Vegetarian Chili, some reserved meatless sauce and all the vegies.

It was a cold and rainy night here - as was most of Sydney’s summer :( - and this was a very satisfying comfort food meal.   


16 Mar 2012

Around the World in 18 Fridays- Week 7- South Africa

This week I was starting to run out of ideas for international meals I've cooked before, so I decided to choose a country and just find something random that sounded good to cook!

Well, I chose South Africa because I had no idea about their cuisine, and I don't regret it!

A lot of the recipes I found contained meat, and that's why I was so excited when I discovered all the vegetarian versions of Frikkadels out there! A 'Frikkadel' is like a tomatoey spicy meatball, but there were all sorts of vegetarian recipes out there using either soy protein or lentils in the place of meat!

I chose lentils, since it's what we had in the cupboard, and they were AMAZING!

I've really missed meatballs since becoming vegetarian, and although these weren't the same, they were better!

I know I probably sound incredibly vain right now, but I'll just point out the recipe is heavily based on this one.

Though I did have to do a few substitutions because Australia doesn't really have a lot of South African cooking supplies!

Oh, and do make the yogurt! It's simple, but incredibly delicious! Especially if you mix everything on your plate up (after taking photos, of course)!

Lentil Frikkadels
Based on: http://blogs.food24.com/aspoonfulofsugar/2011/12/12/spiced-lentil-frikkadels/


250g Brown or Green lentils
750ml Cold water
2 Organic stock cubes (vegetable or chicken, whatever you like)
5 tsp Worchestershire Sauce (or 1 tbsp and 1 tsp, whatever suits)
50g Tomato paste
2 tsp Cumin powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Chilli powder
2 Cloves of garlic
2cm Thumb of ginger, grated
1 Green chilli, chopped finely
1 Small red onion, chopped finely
60ml Lemon juice
Flour for dusting
300ml    Canola oil for frying
For the yoghurt dressing
1 cup Plain smooth yoghurt
1 tsp Cut mint
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp Brown sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1. Add cold water, lentils and crumbled stock cubes to a pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for 30-50 minutes, or until lentils are very soft.
2. Once lentils are cooked, drain off any excess water and mash with a potato masher until the lentils take on the form of a thick paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil and flour, and mix together. Taste and test the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
4. Mix and shape into small rounds, approximately 3cm in diameter. Roll each round in flour, just lightly covering it, and dust off excess flour. Then heat oil in a heavy-based pot or pan.
5. Fry rounds in oil, about four at a time, leaving for approximately 1 minute on each side. Turn only once.
6. Drain on paper towels and once cooled, cover and refrigerate.
7. Mix all the ingredients for the yoghurt dressing together, and serve! I recommend putting them on pasta with a basic tomato sauce and the yogurt, but they'd be fine on their own!

Mia :)

14 Mar 2012

Menu - March 12-18 2012 - leaning towards Italy

Another weeks menu for you. 

We've already had the first 2 nights meals. 

Lentil Frikkadels were fantastic, way tastier than we had imagined,  and will definitely be cooked here again. (Mia will post the details soon.)

The stir-fry was a little disappointing. The Bok Choy didn't come as promised in fruit co-op bag (probably due to the torrential rainfalls last week) so I used beans for green. Not quite the right feel, but simple and healthy. Tuesday night meals have to be quickies around here as  the packing of fruit co-op bags fills the gap between 'arriving home from work' and 'hungry family needing to eat' almost entirely!

Off to cook risotto now...


13 Mar 2012

Ethical Shopper

We try to make the world a better place in little everyday ways where we can. I don't pretend we are making anything like the impact we could - but we, like many, are on the Western Treadmill of work, school, housework and not too much else and this is one area we can manage right now.
Spending our money where it does the least harm and possibly some good is our aim.

I try to stay out of supermarkets a lot. I buy fruit and vegetables through a co-op (Harvest Hub) which tells me who grew my fruit and where. We grow some of our own citrus and herbs. I buy very little meat - and only free range or organic. I buy sustainable fish types from a proper fish shop and very little tinned fish. We have our own chickens for eggs. We make a lot of our own bread and other baked goods. We make some of our cheese and yoghurt. And if we weren't so firmly on the treadmill we would make and grow a lot more.

When I do need to shop in a supermarket, I try to choose one of the smaller chains, Franklins usually, and I choose brands and support businesses that behave ethically. To simplify this I use an App called "Ethical Shopper"
This was slow early on but quickly I came to know the brands to choose and those to avoid and now it's fairly simple.

Sometimes you come up with products that are difficult and have to make some compromises or changes. For example, I now buy most cosmetic and toiletry items at chemists, health food shops or department stores where I get a better range of options - I discovered the massive range in supermarkets really only comes from about 3 companies.

Sometimes I compromise - I buy some fair trade chocolate from a company that has some black marks for it's other chocolate products - but figure the fair trade purchase and message is worth it.

This almost always means we pay more for things. But we are comfortable with that.

It's small - but across a whole year of eating it must make a difference - and if I can influence someone else to adopt it, and they can influence someone else etc- the difference may become big enough to change some business and farming practices!

Off my soapbox and back to my cooking now.


10 Mar 2012

Around the World in 18 Fridays- Week 6- India


This week we'll be stopping in India for an (if I do say so myself) incredible potato curry!

It's based on a recipe I found on allrecipes.com and it's vegan (unless served with a large amount of raita. In that case it's most definitely NOT vegan)!

In my defence, it was a little hotter than expected, so the yogurt was necessary! The original recipe has 4 teaspoons curry powder, but I cut that to 3. It was delicious, and not unbearably hot, but if you're not so fond on chilli I'd recommend cutting it even more or using a really mild curry powder.

You've been warned!

I also added cauliflower, which was great, but if you're not so keen I'm sure it'd be just as nice without.

Or, if you happen to have excess of some other vegetable, why not add that?

We ALWAYS have excess potatoes, which is why this recipe is so good!

But if you don't belong to a fruit co-op who give you insane amounts of potatoes each week, I still say try it. Potatoes aren't exactly hard to come-by!

Indian Potato Curry
Based on: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-vegan-potato-curry/

  1. Ingredients
    1. 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
    2. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    3. 1 yellow onion, diced
    4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
    5. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    6. 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    7. 3 teaspoons curry powder
    8. 4 teaspoons garam masala
    9. 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
    10. 2 teaspoons salt
    11. 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
    12. 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
    13. 1 cup frozen peas
    14. 1/4 of a large cauliflower (1/2 a small one)
    15. 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
    1. Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.
    2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. 
    3. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more. 
    4. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, cauliflower and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
    5. Serve with rice, pappadams, raita (unless you're vegan!) and mango chutney.

Mia :)